Can you believe it’s over? I arrived in Brussels yesterday after nearly 7months of being abroad and I will be going back to my university in Maastricht by the end of the week. It’s now nearly 35C colder than in the places I was travelling to over the past three weeks and let me tell you: it’s no fun. Luckily, my trip in Asia was a lot more fun than the thermic shock.
My first stop took me to Ubud in Bali, where I met one of my best friends from my home university who himself went on exchange in Hong Kong. Ubud is probably my favourite place in Bali, with its terraced rice fields, temples and monkey forests. We stayed there for 3 days, driving around in mopeds, stopping along the way to some beautiful swings or drinking some Luwak coffee – basically coffee made of animal’s poop… a bit gross but it’s not as bad as it sounds.
We then took a boat to Nusa Penida. Unlike Bali, which has a strong touristic atmosphere, Nusa penida hasn’t yet adapted much to tourists: quite literally since there are no proper roads that lead to the best places on the islands. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the amazing sceneries that the island has to offer such as the Seganing Falls, Kelingking beach, Crystal bay beach, the Angel’s billabong or broken beach. Kelinging can translate to pinkie. However, the hike to get to the beach wasn’t as small as a little finger. It is very steep and dangerous and can be quite challenging under the boiling heat, especially the way up. Nonetheless, if you can make it down, the Crystal clear water and the amazing beach makes you forget largely about the way there. Moreover, the difficult hike scares a lot of people and allows you to enjoy the beach without the crowds – and god knows how many people were up there. Also, we should probably establish now that Penida is all about cliffs and stairs. You’ll be getting a proper workout on the island but hey it offsets the nasi gorem and gado gado you’ll be eating once you climb back up. Back in Bali, we stayed in Seminyak where we surfed, enjoyed the beach and went out as true tourists in Indonesia.
The next stop was Singapore. Frankly, the city-state wasn’t my favourite part of the trip. I found it too touristy and I couldn’t have pictured myself living there, unlike the other big cities we visited. Over our 3 days there, we walked around the Bay of gardens, Marina bay, Chinatown and Little India. The supertrees and the hotel are places that should be done by day but especially by night in order to enjoy the impressive light shows. We even went up in the Marina Bay Sands to enjoy a drink over the city.
A funky drive and intense borders crossing took us to Malacca in Malaysia. The city was lovely: you can walk along the river, enjoy a boat tour and walk around to discover the history and culture of the city which was occupied by the British, Dutch and Portuguese. If you go there, I would highly recommend taking an evening to walk around Jonker street and explore its market. We spent the evening eating (way too much) food from the different stands and having the best time listening to some Chinese karaoke. We even took the best ride back in a bike taxi Lilo & Stitch, with some very eccentric lights, decorations and music.
I wasn’t expecting to be that impressed by the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur, especially at night with its hundreds of lights and stunning metallic colours. We even enjoyed a very very cheap meal at a restaurant right in front of the twin towers. Don’t worry, they are equally as impressive in the daylight. Another thing KL has to offer is the beautiful Batu caves. The temple located in the caves can be reached after walking up a few 272 steps, surrounded by birds and wild monkeys running up and down the walk. Unfortunately for us, we went there over one of the biggest religious celebration of the year – wow Indian music can be loud and god there were many people. Our last night in Malaysia was spent in the night market of Jalan Alor, eating street food and having a last beer before heading to our last destination.
Hong Kong was a very special destination in our trip since my friend lived there for a few months. Honestly, I couldn’t have wished for a better way to discover the city. The vibrant city has so much to offer and I wish we could’ve spent more days in there. On the first day, we visited Kowloon and its many markets including temple street and the ladies market, and enjoyed the light show in Tsim Sha Tsui before eating in a Michelin stared restaurant – we didn’t really understand why but hey it was cheap. Back on Hong Kong island the next day, our adventures continued by enjoying the view at Victoria Peak and walking around Wan Chai and causeway bay. In the evening, I was very lucky to experience the horse race at happy valley and a very fun night out that followed. As you can imagine, waking up the next morning was quite painful and so was the ride to go the Big Buddha: overpopulation also means that they aren’t enough seats for everyone… ever. However, the headache didn’t stop us from being amazed by the 34-meters high Buddha and the little village right at the bottom. Another bus ride took us to the rustic Tai O fishing village. It’s hard to imagine that the little village is part of Hong Kong. Indeed, the contrast between the big buildings and the small wooden houses on the edge of collapsing is quite impressive. We spent our last night walking around Mong Kok and enjoying the river view in Tsim Sha Tsui. I truly loved Hong Kong and I really want to go back someday.
Sadly, my amazing journey had to come to an end some day. I’m so grateful for the incredible experiences I’ve had over my travels and I wish to everyone to have that much fun when going on exchange. Going back to reality will be quite a shock but the ride was truly worth it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures down under but don’t worry, I will be right back 😉
If you want to know anything about my travels or want some travel tips about any of those places feel free to message me on Instagram @ancalix
Asian cultural shock:
I won’t consider myself an expert on that matter but after a few days in Asia and in Hong Kong and after hearing stories from my friends, here are some things you might want to be aware of before going to Asia:
- Bathrooms: squat toilets are a thing and toilet paper isn’t everywhere, they will have a little shower in the toilet and in many places around Asia and the bathrooms will usually look like little swimming pools
- Driving: the city is a mess but reckless driving doesn’t make it a lot easier, there are even signs to beware of collision with a car on crossing pads
- Eating: when you go to a restaurant on your own or with another person, it’s not unusual for them to put a stranger next to you or in front of you, even if the restaurant is completely empty. Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t improve interaction with others
- Signs in Asia are my absolute favourite: their knowledge of English is rather phonetic and can amount to the best signs such as “fired chicken” “ais cream” or “please flash the toilet after used”
- Seats in public transports are overrated. You rarely won’t have the opportunity to have one, especially in big cities
- South Asia is humid, so humid. You’ll soon become more and more attractive since you’ll be likely to be covered in sweat from head to toe in a few minutes
- It’s cash economy and some currencies can really feel like monopoly money. In Indonesia, you’ll have to withdraw a million rupiah at the atm but well, it’s only worth a bit less than 100$
- Monkeys are plain scary: they can try to steal your food and hop on your back to try and open your bag to get something. It’s equally as scary if they start picking up a fight right in front of you
- The first price is never the actual price. Bargaining is key and you’ll usually be able to get something for half the price announced at first
- People have a weird fetish for honks and whistles in Indonesia: whatever you do you’ll hear one, you just have to get used to it. It can mean ‘get out of the way’ ‘watch out I’m coming’ ‘hi friend’ ‘Don’t go there’ ‘Please go there’